Royal Melbourne is on show to the world this week. A Kiwi managed to tame the beast to take the lead through the opening round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
Kazuma Kobori stole the limelight but Australians Billy Dowling and Jasper Stubbs are also in contention after round one of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Royal Melbourne today.
Kobori, the brilliant 22-year-old Kiwi, shot a stunning 66 despite tough, windy and wet conditions on the composite course to seize a two-shot lead in the tournament.
Winner of the Australian Amateur in Sydney this year and also the leading individual player at the World Amateur Teams Championship in Abu Dhabi last week, the man from Christchurch has his eyes on very big prizes – with a spot in the Masters and The Open Championship as well as The Amateur Championship in 2024 for the winner on Sunday.
He began with a par at his starting hole, the ninth, but then reeled off four straight birdies from 10 to 13 before parachuting in without a single bogey.
When he was threatened, as he was with a poor iron over the green at his last hole, the eighth on the course, he got up-and-down to match the amateur course record held by Sir Michael Bonnalack, Britain’s most decorated amateur.
A little fist pump there told you that he had achieved something special, and later he said that he had set himself the task of going bogey-free.
“It was a hell of a round,” the Kiwi said. “If you had given me 5-under at the start of the day, I would have taken that in a heartbeat.”
Kobori’s nearest challengers are South Korea’s Hyun Uk Kim, Melburnian Stubbs and Queenslander Dowling at 3-under.
Stubbs, 21, played an outstanding round in the tougher morning conditions that included a chip-in at the par-4 second hole.
Stubbs had the honour of hitting the first ball of the day off the first tee, a piercing long iron to celebrate his debut in this tournament.
“It was very cold, so I couldn’t feel my hands, and my heart rate was just really high up,” he said. “Lucky I got it out of the sweet spot and didn’t hit a cameraman while I was at it.”
The 18-year-old Dowling, from Surfers Paradise, was a late addition to the field on Monday and had never played Royal Melbourne, but he made the most of it, conjuring a big finish with an eagle at the 17th and a great par-save from the greenside trap at the 18th.
The Queensland Amateur champion has had a string of tournaments to play but he is loving it.
“I think this is my sixth in a row now, but you can’t really say ‘no’ this week,” he said. “If I could choose between playing and not playing, I’d definitely choose playing this tournament.”
THE AUSTRALIANS AT THE AAC
(Leader Kazuma Kobori @ 66)
68 Jasper Stubbs, Billy Dowling
71 Harry Takis
73 Lukas Michel, Quinnton Croker, Max Charles, Jeff Guan
74 Connor McDade
76 Jye Pickin
77 Jake Riley, Connor Fewkes
79 Jack Buchanan
80 Harry Bolton